Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.
Below you will find Part 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: I saw several horses come down with pasture-associated laminitis. How do I avoid this concern next spring?
By Peter Huntington
Overgrazing grasses and legumes that are high in water-soluble carbohydrates puts horses at risk for laminitis, which is a painful, life-threatening condition of the hooves.
Many horse owners are already aware that pasture-associated laminitis is particularly concerning for overweight horses and ponies, easy keepers, those with insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome, and horses and ponies with a history of chronic laminitis. However, it’s important for owners to understand that pasture turnout can trigger a bout of laminitis even in lean, non-obese horses with no history of laminitis.
There are several steps owners can take to avoid pasture-associated laminitis next spring:
- Make all dietary changes slowly. If a horse has been on a specific type of hay or other forage over the past few months, do not suddenly turn it out on pasture for the bulk of every day.
- Avoid grazing for all horses that may be at risk for laminitis. Use grazing muzzles or turn out horses in drylots. This will also help maintain an appropriate body weight (body condition score), which helps protect against development of laminitis and some diet-related disorders.
- Be strategic in choosing turnout times. When turning out laminitis-prone horses to graze, turn them out in the early morning and evening, since that is when the water-soluble carbohydrate levels are lowest. Since these times are peak mosquito feeding periods, owners may wish to use insect repellants and fly sheets to help avoid mosquito-borne illness.
- Recognize that at-risk horses need to be monitored daily for signs of laminitis. Even if maintained on pasture with low or moderate levels of water-soluble carbohydrates, some horses are still prone to future bouts of laminitis. Early indications of the disease include hooves that are warm to the touch and horses that appear sore or unwilling to move.
- Explore turnout options. If pasture turnout is non-negotiable at your barn, consider pasture analysis and consultation with a certified equine nutritionist. Your local extension specialist may also have some valuable information regarding appropriate pasture management, such as mowing, rotation schedules and selecting different types of grasses to seed.
It is also important to appreciate that a lack of grazing is not synonymous with a lack of turnout. Horses, especially those with a history of laminitis, benefit from turnout and regular exercise to increase circulation to the feet and maintain an appropriate body weight. Horses also benefit from the social interaction and routine hoof care.
Peter Huntington is the director of nutrition at KER Australia. Located in Versailles, Ky., Kentucky Equine Research is an international research, consulting and product development company working in the areas of equine nutrition and sports nutrition.
Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine).
Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.
Click here to read Part 2 of the July 15, 2017 installment: How important is it to manage sugar in a horse’s diet and does this have any impact on hoof health?